Cecil Boone was a fairly typical retired person when at age 70 he told his family he was tired of waiting each day to see what was coming in the mail.
Shortly after, he began construction of the Derby Plaza Theatres, which opened in 1995. He was active in the day-to-day operations of the theaters until his death on July 28 at age 87.
“He was a workaholic,” his wife, Velma, said. “Up to the end he was working.”
Along with a desire to do something, Cecil wanted to help the community, so he decided to build the multiplex theaters. The Boones’ youngest daughter, Lori Armstrong, then went to work for a Wichita theater chain, learning the business while the Derby building was under construction.
“Once he decided to do something, he did it,” Armstrong said.
While Cecil may not have known the business, his timing was good and the theater thrived as the multiplex idea took off. His previous management experience also served him well, Velma said.
“He knew how to treat people,” she said.
The vision for the theaters was to have a family venue. Armstrong said her father knew if he had been a member of the larger chains, he would not have had the flexibility to choose the movies he knew local audiences would want.
While Cecil was retired, he did not treat the business as one which would end.
“If he had lived to be 100 he would have still been working there,” said Carolyn Eckhardt, his daughter.
The business has updated to digital movies, added two theater rooms, four of the theaters became 3D and there are plans for future improvements.
Armstrong was heavily involved in the management and will keep the business open.
“She has been his right hand all the way through,” Velma said.
Cecil had little knowledge of the theater industry before opening the theaters. His own career started as an excavator in the area around Moline where he grew up and graduated from high school in 1942, Velma said.
The aviation industry drew him to the Wichita area and he worked a short time for Beech, then Boeing for 13 years before going to work for Coleman in 1962 as a production supervisor. In 1974 he went to work at Metal Fab, retiring in 1989 as a vice president of manufacturing and working another year as a consultant.
Over the years, the family moved with his job, to Seattle, Cedar City, Utah and Somerset, Pa. While they settled back in Wichita, it was the desire to find a better school system when oldest daughter Janet Fager was headed into the seventh grade which led them to Derby.
At about the same time, Cecil’s boss was leaving town on a temporary assignment and asked Cecil if he wanted to rent his home in Derby.
“We rented his house and fell in love with Derby,” Fager said.